Is cash all that matters? How to get creative with compensation and benefits

Ghina Fahs
June 6, 2023
Is cash all that matters? How to get creative with compensation and benefits
Best practices
Employee experience
Core HR

When it comes to employee compensation, most people immediately think of salaries, bonuses, or hourly pay rates, because traditionally, the go-to solution for rewarding employees for their hard work has been through monetary incentives. And while money does matter, companies need to be thinking outside of that box. According to a study by the Incentive Research Federation for the Incentive Marketing Association, 65% of employees prefer non-monetary incentives instead of monetary rewards.

The days of relying solely on monetary rewards to retain and motivate employees are gone; and today's employees are seeking more personalized and non-monetary incentives from their employers. Why? When employees receive rewards beyond the usual cash compensation, it not only makes their work more meaningful and improves their quality of life, but it also makes them feel appreciated and valued. To add to that, non-monetary incentives can be tailored to the specific interests and preferences of individual employees, making them feel more personally invested in their work and the success of the company. 

There are plenty of other creative ways to reward and motivate your employees beyond cash alone. Join us as we explore some alternative employee compensation ideas that can make your workplace stand out and keep your employees happy.


The future of work is flexible. In today's fast-paced work environment, many employees value flexible work hours as much as a high salary. Giving your employees the option to work remotely or to have a flexible asynchronous work schedule can go a long way in improving employee satisfaction. 

By offering flexibility, you also encourage a healthy work-life balance, which is crucial to maintaining employee satisfaction and productivity. When employees are able to achieve a healthy work-life balance, they are less likely to experience burnout and more likely to feel motivated and engaged.

Flexibility can be offered in a number of different ways, such as 4-day work weeks, options for hybrid or remote work, eliminating micromanagement, and more.

Employee benefits that matter

Another way to compensate employees is through a robust employee benefits program. Employee benefits can go a long way in making employees feel well taken care of. Benefits like health insurance, dental and vision coverage, and paid time off can help your employees feel valued and appreciated. Many companies also offer additional wellbeing benefits like gym memberships, free therapy, tuition reimbursement, and child care assistance to help employees improve different areas of their lives. These benefits not only benefit your employees but can also contribute to better employee retention rates.

Recognition and rewards

Everyone wants to feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work. Recognizing your employees' achievements and contributions can go a long way in boosting morale and motivation. Think department- or company-wide off-sites, or public acknowledgement and praise for their accomplishments during team meetings. Recognition can also be in the form of non-cash rewards like equity bonuses, gift cards, extra time off, or company swag.

Professional development opportunities

Employees want to know that they have opportunities for growth and development within their company. Offering your people professional development opportunities is another great way to compensate them beyond just a paycheck.

By investing in your employees' professional growth, you can help them develop new skills, improve their performance, and become more valuable to your organization. Not only does this lead to a more skilled workforce, but it also helps to retain top talent.

Additionally, an annual budget can be allocated for employee learning and development for each employee. This ensures that resources are dedicated to supporting their growth and skill enhancement. By setting aside funds specifically for this purpose, companies demonstrate their commitment to investing in their employees' professional development and create a culture that values continuous learning. This budget can be used to provide a wide range of learning opportunities, including training programs, workshops, certifications, online courses, and attending industry conferences.

The availability of such a budget empowers employees to proactively seek out and pursue learning experiences that align with their career goals, ultimately fostering their growth and contributing to their overall job satisfaction.

Time off, vacation days, and sabbatical leave

Everyone needs a break from work once in a while, and offering your employees generous time off and vacation days can be a great way to show your appreciation. Whether it's a paid vacation or a personal day off, giving your people the chance to recharge and refresh can help reduce burnout and increase employee engagement.

Encourage your employees to take breaks, disconnect after work hours, and take time off when needed, but also consider taking things a step further by offering more than the typical vacation. Think mental health days, time off for volunteering, and extended sabbatical leaves.

Creative perks and incentives

Get creative and go the extra mile. Offer perks like on-site or online fitness and yoga classes, free lunches, fun team building activities, or even company-wide volunteer days. Creating a holistically positive employee experience through added perks can help to create a fun and engaging work workplace culture, all while showing your employees that you care about their wellbeing and happiness.

If you want to boost employee morale, decrease turnover rates, and increase job satisfaction, be intentional about finding different ways to cultivate a welcoming work environment and foster a team-oriented culture.

Final thoughts

While salary is undoubtedly important, it surely isn’t the only way to compensate and motivate your employees. Non-monetary employee compensation offers numerous benefits, including improved employee morale, increased employee engagement, enhanced job satisfaction, and higher retention rates. When employees get compensated beyond their salary, they feel appreciated and valued, which creates a positive impact on their overall job performance. 

Remember, happy employees are more likely to stay with your company for the long haul, leading to a more skilled and engaged workforce.

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